She was the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, in 2013 (she returns for her third Last Night at the 2023 Proms). She is also the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America, Austria and Britain. Here's all you need to know about the acclaimed, pioneering conductor Marin Alsop.


Who is Marin Alsop?

Marin Alsop is an American conductor, currently music director laureate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of both the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Ravinia Festival, and - as of June 2023 - artistic director and conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

How old is Marin Alsop?

Alsop was born on October 16, 1956.

Where was Marin Alsop born?

The conductor was born on the Upper West Side in New York City. Her parents, Ruth E. (Condell) and Keith Lamar Alsop, were both professional string players.

And where was she educated?

Marin Alsop studied violin at the Juilliard School's Pre-College Division, graduating in 1972. She then went to Yale to study maths, but transferred to New York's famous Juilliard School, where she took a Bachelor of Music (1977) and a Master of Music (1978) in violin. During her time at Juilliard, Alsop played with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic.

Which ensembles did Marin Alsop found?

Alsop founded the New York String Ensemble in 1981. Three years later she set up Concordia, a 50-piece orchestra that specialised in 20th-century American music.

When did Marin Alsop meet Leonard Bernstein?

Alsop met her hero and future mentor Leonard Bernstein in the 1980s. Meetings included in 1989, when she won the Koussevitzky Prize as outstanding student conductor at the Tanglewood Music Center, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

What orchestras has Marin Alsop led?

Before her current tenures with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of both the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Ravinia Festival, and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop was principal conductor and then music director of the Colorado Symphony (1993-2005). She then led the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 2007 to 2021, becoming the first woman appointed to lead a major American orchestra.

At Baltimore, Alsop made some much-admired recordings, including her accounts of the four Brahms symphonies and the final three Dvořák symphonies.

She also served as principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra from 2012 to 2019.

Which British orchestras has Marin Alsop conducted?

Alsop served as the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's principal guest conductor, a role she also took with the City of London Sinfonia. From 2002 to 2008, she was the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's first female principal conductor.

How many times has Marin Alsop conducted the Last Night of the Proms?

Alsop first conducted the Last Night of the Proms in 2013: she was the first female conductor to do so. She returned for 2015's Last Night, and will also conduct the 2023 Last Night of the Proms.

Is Marin Alsop married?

Alsop's partner is the horn player Kristin Jurkscheit. The couple have been together since 1990.

Does she have children?

Alsop and partner Kristin Jurkscheit have a son.

Bernstein: Symphonies 1 and 2

Baltimore Symphony Prchestra / Marin Alsop / Jennifer Johnson Cano (mezzo soprano) / Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)

From our review: 'The performances are predictably excellent. In No. 1, the imposing first movement is presented with fervour, and the Copland-like central scherzo with lightness and precision; Jennifer Johnson Cano brings sustained intensity to the finale.'

Schumann: Symphonies 3 & 4 (arr. Mahler)

Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
Naxos 8.574430

From our review: 'The lively tempo and crisp articulation in the Fourth’s first movement are very welcome (...). The timpani part at the start of No. 3's first movement is radically thinned, and the rewriting of the brass includes thrilling hand-muted horns as the recap approaches. But it still sounds like Schumann.'

Anna Clyne: Mythologies

Various conductors and orchestras
Avie AV2434

From our review: 'Anna Clyne’s Masquerade was first heard at the 2013 Last Night of the Proms and, since then, a snippet has become familiar in Proms adverts across the BBC. Wildly exuberant, the piece suited its celebratory purpose to a T – and its live recording does likewise in opening this album of show-stopping orchestral works, written over a ten-year period.

'They are performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under an array of conductors, Marin Alsop at the helm for that dazzling premiere.'

Brahms: Symphony No. 3

London Philharmonic Orchestra / Marin Alsop
Naxos 8.557430

Brahms's enigmatic, lyrical Symphony No. 3 has enjoyed many fine recordings. Those by Claudio Abbado, Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Fürtwangler and Christoph von Dohnányi are among the best recordings of Brahms's Symphony No. 3.

But this 2007 rendition from Alsop and the LPO is a rival for any of them: a richly lyrical account in superb sound.

Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
Naxos 8.570714

From our review: 'It is rare to be able to say that a performance forces one to listen to a work anew, but this is exactly what Alsop's reading achieves. Excellently recorded and with an elegant and witty performance of the Symphonic Variations as makeweight, this is a superb issue all round.'


Pic: Grant Leighton


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.